How to keep spices fresh for longer

 

Do you have a spice rack in your pantry? If you’re like most of us, you will have at least a few spice jars that have been sitting there unused for years. Remember that exotic mix you picked up when you last travelled overseas? Or the packet of dried herbs from that gift hamper five Christmases ago?

 Spices can lose their freshness and flavour if not stored properly. While whole spices last longer than ground up ones, stored properly even ground spices will not lose their flavour for years.

Why do spices go off? 

There are three main reasons why spices go off over time – moisture, oxygen and light.

Exposure to light causes pigments in the spices to break down especially in case of turmeric, coriander and red chilli powder. Storing them in dark coloured containers helps avoid this.

Oxygen and moisture in the air react with the natural oils in the spices causing them to lose their flavour. Keep them in their original airtight packaging to avoid undue exposure.

Best way to store spices 

If you buy your spices in bulk, it is best to decant a small amount for regular use and store the rest in a cool dark place until needed. Store your spices in the fridge in a dark, air-tight container to keep them fresh for longer.

Fortunately consuming stale spices isn’t harmful, only pointless. After all, life is too short to eat boring, flavourless food!

Importance of packaging at Spicecraft  

At Spicecraft we use special packaging to keep spice mixes as fresh as possible without additives.
 

The sachets are made of a durable three layered material. The thick outer kraft layer keeps out the light. In the middle is a layer of metal foil which forms a barrier against moisture and oxygen. Finally the innermost layer is a thin plastic laminate to allow the sachets to be sealed. This process enables us to use the least amount of plastic and the sachets can be recycled using the ‘hydropulping’ method.

Filling the spice mixes into this thick material a tricky process, but goes a long way in maintaining that flavour you know and love.

Store your kits in a cool, dark environment and use up all the spices once the sachets are opened. If you are not planning to cook for 6, it is better to make the entire batch and freeze the unused portions. In fact you will find that the flavour turns out better the next time.

Have a question about spices or Indian cooking? Drop us a line or ask on our Facebook page.

Butter Chicken Recipe

Butter Chicken

Butter Chicken was invented almost 70 years ago at an Old Delhi restaurant called Moti Mahal. The chef combined pieces of grilled Tandoori Chicken with a spiced tomato sauce to create this culinary marvel.
Here is the original Butter Chicken recipe using our finest quality authentic spice mixes. It takes about 45 mins to cook and makes 6 servings.
Serve with hot Naan bread or Basmati rice.
Cook Time 30 mins
Marinating time 15 mins
Total Time 45 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Indian
Servings 6

Ingredients
  

  • 1 Spicecraft Butter Chicken Spice Kit
  • 1 kg chicken thigh filets
  • 300 ml Light thickened cream
  • 140 g tomato paste 1 tub
  • 1 tbsp plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 sprig fresh coriander for garnish
  • 1.5 cups water

Instructions
 

What you need

  • Gather your ingredients

Marinate the chicken

  • Cut chicken thighs into 3-4 cm pieces into a bowl. Add contents of the Marinade Spice Pack and 1 tbsp yogurt. Mix well and set aside for at least 15 mins or, if possible, overnight.
    For a dairy free version, use a tbsp of olive oil instead of yogurt.

Cook

  • Grill the marinated chicken on a BBQ until lightly charred, or in the oven until cooked, reserving the juices. You can also do this later when the sauce is simmering away.
  • To make the Butter Chicken sauce combine the contents of Sauce Pack 1 with 140g tomato paste and 1.5 cups of water
  • Melt 1 tbsp butter in a hot saucepan.
  • Add the spiced tomato sauce. Bring it to a boil.
  • Reduce heat and allow the sauce to simmer for 5 minutes.
  • Add the contents of Sauce Pack 2.
  • Add the contents of Fenugreek Leaves from the pack and almost all the light thickened cream. Save a couple of tablespoons of cream for garnish later.
  • Stir in 1 tbsp honey. Mix well until the sauce colour lightens. Simmer for 10 mins
  • Now add in the grilled chicken and its juices and cook until the sauce thickens to a creamy consistency.
    Tip: If the sauce looks runny, simmer uncovered for another 10 - 15 mins until it thickens.
  • Season with a generous pinch of salt to taste.

Serve

  • Garnish your mouth wateringly delicious Butter Chicken with almond flakes and a dollop of cream. Serve hot with Saffron rice or Naan bread.
Keyword butter chicken, Spicekit

From the shop

Curry Powder and Garam Masala

As you progress along your journey of discovery through the world of Indian cooking, you are bound to bump into this little conundrum at some point.

Is there a difference between Curry Powder and Garam Masala? They are both Indian spice blends, right?

Right. But that’s about where the similarity ends.

 

Freshly ground Curry Powder

 

Curry Powder is a gentle, versatile spice mix. You probably have some in your spice drawer right now – sprinkle on eggs or add to a creamy soup for a pop of flavour. You might’ve even used it to make a curry.  

This mix makes a great starting point for many curries. It is usually a combination of ground up coriander seeds, cumin seeds, chilli, turmeric and mustard seeds plus other spices depending on the brand. 

Interestingly, you will rarely find Curry Powder in a traditional Indian kitchen. Instead, you will find a spice box or a ‘masale-dani’. This spice box has many little jars containing small quantities of frequently used spices that get added into the dish individually.  

Freshly ground Garam Masala

Garam Masala on the other hand is a different kettle of fish. It is a potent combination of warming spices that add heat and depth to a dish. It is usually made with Cloves, Star anise, Cinnamon, Cardamom, Black pepper, nutmeg, bay leaves and other intensely flavoured spices. 

This masala packs a punch but must be handled with care. It is usually added towards the end of the recipe or for finishing the dish, though some recipes will add it earlier.

Most Indian kitchens will have some version of branded or home made ready-to-use Garam Masala. The trick is to lightly roast the spices to release their oils before grinding them. 

Too much Garam Masala can easily ruin a curry. Over cooking will make it bitter. But just the right amount will add magical layers of complexity and flavour to your dish.

Are Curry Powder and Garam Masala interchangeable? 

Short answer, no. In a pinch you could use Curry Powder if you don’t have Garam Masala on hand, but not the other way around.

If you have any other questions about this or other aspects of Indian cooking, please leave a comment below. Or ask on our Facebook page.

Happy cooking!

Vegetarian Biryani Recipe

If you are unfamiliar with this much loved dish, Biryani is traditionally made by layering spiced rice and meat, then cooking the assembly in it’s own steam.

Versions of biryani can be found all across the subcontinent. In addition to the multiple varieties found in India, there are versions of Biryani from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Myammar, the Middle East and even countries like Tibet and Poland.

Purists will say that Biryani must be a meat dish, and a vegetarian version cannot exist. But this vegetarian Biryani that delight vegetarians and meat-eaters alike.

This Biryani is made with spices from the Spicecraft Hyderabadi Biryani spice kit. It is quite easy to make, though it does take a bit of time.

First we par boil rice in salt and spices, then make a vegetable curry with chunky veggies like potato, carrots, beans, onions and mushroom in yogurt and Biryani spices. You can also add in Paneer (cottage cheese) for some protein.

The rice and mixed veg curry then are formed into alternate layers in a deep pot, then allowed to steam gently in the sealed pot for a while.

It can take a couple of hours to put the whole thing together, so put on your music of choice and let’s begin.

Hyderabadi Vegetable Biryani Recipe

This beautiful vegetarian version uses half the marinade spices from the Spicecraft Biryani Spice Kit and a selection of veggies.

Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 1 hr 30 mins
Total Time 1 hr 45 mins

Course Main Course
Cuisine Indian

Servings 6 serves

Equipment

  • Dutch oven or 12 cm deep pot with a well fitting lid

Ingredients

  

  • 1 Spicecraft Hyderabadi Biryani Spice Kit
  • 400 g Basmati Rice Good quality
  • 1 bunch Fresh Mint leaves
  • 1 bunch Fresh Coriander leaves
  • 1 cup Plain Greek Yogurt
  • 3 tbsp Canola or sunflower oil 
  • 2 tbsp Ghee or Butter or olive oil
  • 1 Lemon
  • Salt to taste

Veggies

  • 2-3 Potatoes (3 small or 2 large)
  • 1 Red onion medium
  • 900 g mixed veggies (carrots, cauliflower, green beans, capsicum) and paneer (Indian cottage cheese)

Instructions

 

Prep

  • Soak rice underwater for one hour.
  • Slice potatoes into 2-3 cm thick discs. These discs will be used to form the base layer.

    Cut all other veggies into 2-3 cm pieces.

  • Roughly chop the mint and coriander
  • We first cook the vegetables to make a curry for layering.

    To make the curry, sautee onions in a wok with 1 tbsp of oil. When the onions soften, add in all remaining vegetables, except for the potatoes.

    Mix 1 cup yoghurt, half of the chopped mint and coriander, half the contents of Biryani Marinade Spices 1 and half the contents of Biryani Marinade Spices 2. This is to avoid the Biryani getting too spicy.

    Add this mix into the veggies in the wok and cook on medium heat till the carrots soften a little, or about 5 minutes, and set aside. Your Vegetable Curry for the Biryani is ready.

Cook Rice

  • Add spices from the Rice Spice Mix sachet to a large saucepan along with 1 tbsp oil and 2 liters of boiling water. Check the water for saltiness. It should be salty like the sea. If not, add more salt. This step is very important to ensure the rice is properly flavoured. The salt will be rinsed away later.

    Drain the rice that's been soaking underwater and carefully add it into the boiling water. Stir once, then allow the rice to cook on high heat for 4 mins. After 4 mins, turn off the heat and strain the parboiled rice discarding the water. It is very important to not overcook the rice to avoid a gluggy Biryani.

    You now have fragrant, gently spiced riced all ready for layering.

Build the layers

  • Preheat the oven to 170 fan forced.
  • LAYER 1

    To assemble the Biryani spread a 1 tbsp of oil in a thin layer at the base of a heavy pot.

    Place the sliced potatoes discs in a single even layer at the bottom of the pot. Ensure the base is completely covered without too much overlapping.

    Spread half the parboiled rice over the potatoes.

  • LAYER 2

    Spread the Vegetable curry prepared earlier over the rice evenly.

    Sprinkle half the chopped mint and half the chopped coriander over the curry.

    Now spread remaining rice in an even layer. Do not press down the rice.

    Drizzle half a cup of water over the rice.

  • LAYER 3

    Finally sprinkle remaining mint and coriander along with the fried onion from the sachet over the rice.

    Finish with a drizzle of 2 tbsp of ghee or olive oil.

  • Cover the pot with aluminium foil and then the tight fitting lid.

Cook the Vegetable Biryani

  • Cook the Biryani in the oven in it’s own steam at 170 degrees for 40 mins with the lid tightly on.
  • Remove pot from the oven and allow it to stand for 5 mins. Remove the lid and the foil. Biryani is ready to serve.

Serve

  • Garnish with a handful of fried cashews and raisins.
  • A small cup of Raita on the side goes really well with this Biryani.

    To make the Raita – combine 1 tbsp sugar, 1 tsp salt, juice of half a lemon with a cup of yoghurt in a bowl. Mix through finely chopped mint, diced cucumber, onions and tomatoes. Serve fresh.

Keyword Biryani, Spicekit, Vegetarian

5 easy tips to fix a salty curry

In Indian cooking, like in most cuisines, salt is the most critical of all spices. Not only does it add that essential savoury element to a dish, but it enhances the intensity of all the other flavours as it goes. A tiny pinch of salt will make your brownies taste sweeter. And who can deny the magical effects of salted caramel!

But nothing will ruin a curry more thoroughly than too much salt. Happens to the best of us. Never fear, here are five easy tips to help save a salty curry.

  • Sliced raw potatoes. Peel and slice one large potato and add it to your curry. Leave it in for 20 mins. Discard potato before serving. The potatoes absorb salt and water from the sauce and you are good to go. You may need to top up the water lost in the potato.

  • Lemon or vinegar. A dash of acidity can help offset the saltiness. Tread lightly though, adding a little bit at a time and tasting as you go. Sour yogurt will also work in the same way. This will change the flavour profile of your curry though hopefully not in a bad way.

  • Double up. If you have the time, make another portion without salt and mix with the original so the excess salt is distributed through more sauce.

  • Dairy Cream or Plain Yogurt. Fat from the cream will smooth out the saltiness. It will also weaken other spices, so you may need to top them up. Taste, taste, taste.

  • Raw Onion. Slice an onion in half and leave it in for 15 minutes. Like a potato, onion will absorb the salt. Remove and discard onion before serving.

Give these tips a try next time there’s a salty accident is the kitchen.

#ThrowbackThursday

Around this time five years ago, Vikram and I were shipping out our very first cooking kits from our lounge room. Curry Delights, as the we were then called, had just raised the grand sum of five thousand dollars on Kickstarter. We were in business.

We’ve come a long way since and it has been wonderful to have so many of our original backers still a part of the Spicecraft journey.   

The business name and concept changed along the way, but the original vision of helping people create beautiful Indian food remains the heart of our story.

The original idea of Curry Delights was a subscription service where you would receive a different cooking kit every month. Each kit featured a different food region of India. It came with all the cooking ingredients and recipes to cook a three course feast for 6. 

Our subscribers loved the excitement of discovering new flavours and cooking techniques every month, and we had a most wonderful time researching and testing recipes from all across the subcontinent. 

Here’s a video from the half way point of our fundraiser.  

Vikram and I had been playing with the idea of Indian cooking kits for quite a while. It was inspired by all the times our friends spoke of their struggles with authentic Indian cooking. 

It felt strange and exhilarating to finally put the idea to test in public for the very first time.

The Kickstarter turned out to be the perfect way to test the proof of concept. The original subscription boxes evolved into the existing Meal Kit format over multiple iterations. Each time we listened to our customers, figuring our what worked and what didn’t.

Looking back today, it feels like we’ve come a long way. Yet, there remains a long way still to go.

Rose Petal Preserve (gulkand)

Gulkand or Rose Petal preserve is a power packed little treat. Not only is it delicious as a spread, but is also considered a powerful herbal remedy in Ayurvedic Indian medicine. It is often prescribed as a cooling tonic in the summers and as a digestive aid.

It is made by drying a mix of rose petals and sugar in the sun over many days. 

Rose Petal Preserve (Gulkand)

A delicious preserve made with rose petals, sugar and a hint of cardamom. Use on toast, in a milk shake or eat straight off a spoon.

  • 1 cup organic rose petals
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp cardamom powder or crushed cardamom
  • 2 tbsp water
  1. Spread our half the rose petals at the bottom of a sterilized glass jar

  2. Sprinkle half the sugar or the rose petals followed by the cardamom

  3. Spread remaining rose petals over the sugar

  4. Sprinkle remaining sugar

  5. Pour water and honey on top and seal the lid tight.

  6. Place the jar in sunlight for 6-8 hours a day

  7. Stir well every other day

  8. Gulkand will be ready to use in about 10 days.

  9. Store in a cool dry place. No refrigeration needed.

 


Pink Champagne with dried Rose Petals

This lush pink champagne with dried rose petals makes for an elegant summer drink. Ready in minutes and bound to impress.

Pink Champagne with Persian Rose Petals

Mesmerising, elegant and super easy to make – Entertaining friends at home? Make this pink champagne cocktail infused with rosebuds and garnished with persian fairy floss pashmak expect some raised eyebrows looking fairy-like and tasting beyond yummy! Kids birthday party? Make special fun drinks for kids using the fairy floss they will love it
Course: Drinks
Author: Parya Zaghand from Saffron and More

Materials

  • 1 cup champagne
  • 2 cups pink lemonade
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • a few slices of lime
  • Rose petals for topping

Instructions

  • Combine all ingredients for the cocktail
  • Rim glass with lime slice then dip in sugar or salt.
  • Throw in a a teaspoon of rose petals per glass
  • Pour cocktail into the glass
  • Sprinkle rose petals on top

Hyderabadi Chicken Biryani

It is believed that the Mughals from Persia first introduced Biryani to India 400 years ago. Since then this dish has evolved into a number of regional versions. The gloriously delicious Hyderabadi style Chicken Biryani is made by layering marinated chicken with spiced parboiled rice, then cooking the whole thing in it’s own juices on low heat.

Hyderabadi Chicken Biryani Recipe

Spicecraft
Biryani is a much loved Indian dish made by steam-cooking layers of meat/veg and rice in their own juices. It does take time to make which is why it is usually made on special occasions. While there are many ways to make a Biryani, this particular recipe comes from the historic city of Hyderabad in Southern India.
There are three parts to this recipe. First, marinade the meat. Second, par boil the rice. Third, layer the meat and rice and cook in it’s own steam.
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 1 hr 30 mins
Resting Time 1 hr
Total Time 2 hrs 45 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Indian
Servings 6 serves

Equipment

  • Dutch oven or 12 cm deep pot with a well fitting lid

Ingredients
  

  • 1 kit Spicecraft Hyderabadi Biryani Spice Kit
  • 1 whole Chicken size 12 cut into 12-14 pieces
  • 400 grams Basmati Rice good quality
  • 1 bunch Fresh Mint leaves
  • 1 bunch Fresh Coriander leaves
  • 1 cup Plain Greek Yogurt
  • 4 tbsp Canola or sunflower oil fragrance free
  • 2 tbsp Ghee or Butter
  • 1 Lemon
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 pinch Saffron thread (optional)
  • 4-5 Green Chillies (optional)

Instructions
 

  • Roughly chop coriander and mint leaves.
  • In a large bowl combine 1 cup yogurt with the spice mixes in Biryani Marinade Spices 1 sachet.
  • Next mix in the spices from Biryani Marinade Spices 2 sachet.
  • Add in half of the chopped mint, half of the chopped coriander and the juice of half a lemon
  • Add 1 tsp of salt and 3 tbsp of oil and mix well. For extra heat, add finely chopped green chillies at this point.
  • Now combine the chicken and the marinade and toss everything together to ensure all pieces are evenly coated
  • Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour, ideally overnight.
  • Soak 400g Basmati rice in water for an hour.
  • (Optional) A pinch of saffron can add a bit of extra oomph to your Biryani. Steep the saffron threads on 2 tbsp warm milk for an hour.

COOK

  • Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C fan forced.
  • Add spices from the Rice Spice Mix sachet to a large saucepan.
  • Add 1 tbsp oil and 2 liters of boiling water to the saucepan.
  • Check the water for saltiness. It should be salty like the sea. If not, add more salt. This step is very important to ensure the rice is properly flavoured. The salt will be rinsed away later.
  • Drain the rice that's been soaking underwater. Carefully add it into the boiling water. Stir once, then allow the rice to cook on high heat for 4 mins.
  • After 4 mins, turn off the heat and strain the parboiled rice discarding the water. It is very important to not overcook the rice to avoid a gluggy Biryani.
    You now have fragrant, gently spiced riced all ready for layering.
  • Assemble 3 layers of the Biryani.
    LAYER 1
    Evenly layer pieces of marinated chicken at the bottom of a deep and heavy pot. Unlike other forms of Biryani that first cook the chicken, our Hyderabadi version uses raw chicken for layering.
  • Sprinkle half of the remaining mint and coriander over the chicken.
  • LAYER 2
    Gently spread the parboiled rice over the chicken in an even layer. Do not press down on the rice.
  • (Optional) Sprinkle the saffron milk over the rice if using.
  • LAYER 3
    This final layer is made by spreading fried onions, mint, coriander and ghee over the rice.
    Even sprinkle fried onions from the sachet over the rice.
  • Next spread the remaining mint and coriander
  • Finally drizzle 2 tbsp ghee or melted butter as the final step of this assembly.
  • Cover the pot with aluminium foil and put the lid on. The Biryani is ready to go into the oven.
    Cook the Biryani in the oven for 1 hour at 170 degrees C with the lid tightly secure.
  • Carefully take the pot out of the oven and allow to stand for 15 mins with the lid on. Remove the lid and foil just before serving.

Notes

LAMB BIRYANI:  
This recipe works equally well with Lamb instead of Chicken. Use 1 kg lamb, fat trimmed, cut into 5 cm pieces. Remember to add an extra half cup of water over the rice in Layer 2.
 

Feature in Sunday Telegraph

Spicecraft was featured in the story on global dining while stuck at home in the Escape feature of Sunday Tele today. The article by travel journalist Paul Ewart looks at a variety of dine-in options available at your door Our very first article in a National paper! Did you get a look at it?

DINE LIKE YOU’RE IN OLD DELHI

A melting pot of mouth watering cuisines, exotic smells and mesmerising monuments – the ancient Indian capital of Delhi is a literal feast for the senses. It is also the birthplace of a favourite Indian dish: butter chicken. Lucky Aussies can get an authentic taste of this iconic dish in their own kitchen, thanks to Spicecraft, a home delivery meal kit service.

Created by food-loving Australian Indian couple, who managed to convince the chefs at the original Delhi restaurant that birthed the dish to divulge their recipe. The easy to prepare Butter Chicken meal kits are home delivered, helping even truly clueless cooks to whip up a butter chicken to be proud of.

Paul Ewart